I had heard about them for some time now, and was intrigued as to how well they could meet the needs of my very young students.
For thirty one years, I was an early childhood music specialist, in addition to running my studio and performing. Because of that expertise, I have often taken private students at a much younger age than most would.
Unfortunately, I found that even the Jupiter Prodigy flute, as wonderful as it was for early beginning flutists, was just too heavy and unwieldy for my youngest students. I would often start them with piano, adding flute when they reached the right stature.
Enter Nuvo and their products.
I started with the jFlute. It is very lightweight, which is a plus with the younger students. Nuvo uses a donut head joint instead of the curved head joint, and as a result is much easier to balance. The jFlute has soft silicone contact points for the left index finger and right thumb, and it incorporates the D# key onto the body. It comes with key extensions to facilitate the reach for little fingers. As the student grows, a straight head joint can be added, as well as a foot joint extension to bring the instrument into the standard range of pitches.
I was pleasantly surprised at the tonal quality this flute produced! I was able to create a range of colors and depth that I certainly did not expect for a plastic flute. The jFlute has a fairly consistent scale and a surprisingly responsive third register. The mechanism is a bit clickety-clack, but the touch is even and light, which helps promote good finger habits.
When testing out the Firstnote lip plate, I was decidedly unimpressed. While Nuvo’s idea is to make it easy to produce sound for the first time, thereby creating excitement, I think the poor sound quality would be disappointing. A teacher who is worth his or her mettle will have the student producing a pure tone on the traditional lip plate in a short time. I feel the Firstnote would just delay the process.
As soon as the jFlute arrived, I showed it to one of my five year old piano students who has been interested in the flute for a while now. I found that even this flute is still a bit big for someone of his small stature. I wouldn’t recommend starting a student with an oversized instrument. It will cause the student to learn incorrect habits to compensate.
So, now what?
Nuvo thought of that with their Toot. The Toot is composed of the same materials as the jFlute, and is in one piece. It is easily managed by even the smallest student.
The Toot is held transverse, just like a standard flute. However, it uses fingerings that are a hybrid combination of recorder and flute fingerings. When transitioning from the Toot to the jFlute or any other flute, there might be a brief challenge when adjusting to the flute fingerings. I don’t see that as a problem, though. It will actually give the student a foretaste of what it’s like to play different but similar instruments, all of which have slightly different fingering systems.
In order to be wholly chromatic, the Toot incorporates two tiny plugs that, when removed, make it possible to play C#1 and D#1. The littlest flutists might find it challenging to use the fine motor skills necessary to cover and uncover those holes. If that’s the case, the teacher can simply avoid assigning pieces that require those pitches until the student develops further.
Shifting between the B and Bb “keys” might also be challenging for the youngest students. The teacher can adjust the repertoire to accommodate that, as well.
I noticed that the Toot requires a pretty firm squeeze to get the holes covered enough. That is definitely a concern, since it’s important to start our students with the very best habits.
The head joint is in a fixed location, so there’s no opportunity to adjust the hand position related to the embouchure. The Toot also comes with a Firstnote lip plate, but I would skip it (see above).
The Toot is designed to play one and a half octaves. The scale is even throughout the first register, but the second is a little wonky. I found the F# to be very sharp, requiring a pretty large embouchure adjustment. For the student whose stature requires them to remain on the Toot for a longer time, this might be a problem.
I think both the Toot and the jFlute are terrific options for starting a young student, despite the drawbacks. The instruments are quite affordable (the Toot retails for $30, and the jFlute for about $130). They are sturdy enough to withstand a young one’s developing coordination skills, and they can even be given a thorough bath!
For young families, this is a great introduction to the flute world. The low financial risk makes it particularly appealing, and it’s an opportunity to engage the child when their interest first ignites.
By the way, videos of me playing these flutes are coming soon.
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